Blogger and internet problems kept me from posting until today so sorry for the lack of posts last week.
We all know President Bush has a reputation, especially overseas, of being a raving belligerent lunatic, but it seems you have to be a Frenchman to really get it right. Last week, French President Jacques Chirac continued in the grand French tradition of de Gaulle and Mitterrand when it comes to refined bullying. Last I checked Bush has yet to respond to a disagreeable country by telling them they had missed an opportunity to shut up like Chirac did when those ingrate Eastern Europeans had the temerity to support America over France’s EU on Iraq. Bush spent 6 months at the UN trying to get it to enforce its own resolutions with Iraq before dealing with the problem, while Chirac didn’t bother informing the UN, EU, or NATO before he occupied the Ivory Coast to protect French cocoa interests. Even with terror attacks Bush does not rise to the level of Chirac who warned that any country that supported a terror attack on France would face nuclear retaliation. I could go on and on with past examples of Gallic brusqueness but there’s no need to with 2 new examples from just the last week.
The first example is Chirac’s comment that a nuclear Iran is no threat to anyone except maybe Israel (so of course, who cares). He further elaborated that should Iran nuke Israel, Israel would nuke Iran (so again, who cares). I know for many, especially in France, it must be calming to think that big bad scary Iran is only a threat to the Jews, but it isn’t. The effect of a nuclear Iran will be felt by everyone. For example, is Chirac still willing to contemplate any response, much less a nuclear response, to an Iranian backed terror attack in France? Part of the cause of high oil prices is the fear that the next terror attack or round of saber rattling may lead to a major war, the destruction of important oil fields, and/or the closure of the Straits of Hormuz by Iran. What will the price be when an emboldened nuclear Iran can more swiftly bring about each and is more resolute about threatening to do it? This is not to mention when a nuclear Iran takes advantage of this situation and demands tribute from the West. Even if Iran were only a threat to Israel and even if any exchange would result in both being wiped off the face of the planet I can’t imagine why anyone, especially a leader of a nation, would be blasé about that prospect. At the very least we are condemning around 80 million people to live under a nuclear sword of Damocles and at worst millions of them will die should the Ayatollahs be less rational than Chirac expects or should Iranian/Israeli nuclear command and control prove less than 100% reliable. Anyways, whatever the correctness, or not, of the comment, the point remains, Bush has never said oh well if N. Korea goes nuclear, if they nuke Seoul S. Korea will destroy the north. I intended to write a full post about this last week, but due to the aforementioned blogger/internet problems, Chirac was able to correct his statement before I could. He now says it’s not what he really thinks, and he thought he was off record anyhow. I think he initially said what he believes so I’ll stick with that.
Like all masters of their art, Chirac was merely warming up when he took on the little Satan of the Franco-Iranian world view. He was saving his best act for later in the week when he challenged le grande Satan, the United States. America’s economy is a serious threat to France and we aren’t going along with the left’s drive to use hysteria over “global warming” to drive the US economy into an equally uncompetitive position as Europe in general but France in particular. Whoops, I meant “global climate change”, the alarmists had to protect themselves against to their previous charge that we were heading for an ice age (due to man’s pollution of course) and against any future weather changes that may revive the ice age charge. Anyways, so we aren’t going along with the diktats of France’s EU and that won’t do at all for France. So, according to Chirac France will have the EU punish us with a carbon tax on our exports for not accepting their climate imperialism. The fact that France and the rest of Continental Europe have utterly failed to pay the price to live up to their own pollution treaties (newest I could find, EU-15 should be around 8.4 and dropping in 2003, not 8.6 and rising, as usual only the British are making the effort to meet their commitments) further shows that this is economic warfare plain and simple. Whether Chirac has the EU follow through or not is questionable since the already strained Continental economies would not likely take the combination of higher American import prices and reduced exports from the inevitable American retaliatory sanctions very well. Like with Chirac’s other comments, the key thing here is that this is a level of gall that we haven’t seen out of Bush.
While I do sometimes wish Bush would be the raving belligerent lunatic that much of the world imagines him to be, the fact that he isn’t and couldn't be highlights the difference between him and Chirac. Bush is the leader of the most powerful country of the world and Chirac is not. Bush must as the leader of the free world be far more circumspect than leaders of lesser countries who do not share his responsibility. It is easy to say that a nuclear Iran isn’t a big deal when it’s not your problem to deal with. Likewise it is a simple matter to demand your main economic competitor sign on to economy wrecking pollution treaties when you won’t abide by them and you wouldn’t have any impact of global pollution if you did. Bush on the other hand, as leader of the free world, if fully expected and does abide by agreements that we have signed. While it is to be expected that due to his lower position Chirac can get away with worse comments and threats than Bush can, it doesn’t mean Bush should drop to his level nor ignore them. As annoying and counter-productive as his comments may be, the Gallic flare with which Chirac delivers them can still be appreciated.